Politicians and residents have reported administrative problems and cheating in elections for ward and village-tract administrators, which are being held throughout the country this month.
The problems, mostly between organising commissions and residents, have emerged in Yangon, Mandalay and some rural townships. Under the Ward and Village-tract Administration Law, residents are grouped together into 10-household units.
The leaders of the 10 household select a representative, known as seh eain su, for their group through secret ballot and the seh eain su for the ward or village-tract then select a ward or village-tract administrator. The term of the post is concurrent to the Pyithu Hluttaw.
While some cases of cheating have been reported, Dr Nyo Nyo Thin, a Yangon Region Hluttaw representative from Bahan township, said the main issue was poor record-keeping, which also plagued the April 1 by-elections.
She said in Bahan township the leaders of the ward commissions were given only three to five days to organise lists of residents.
“The main problem is the lack of time for the ward commissions to get the real information about the total number of residents in their area. Many residents are living with temporary family registration documents … so they are not eligible to be a seh eain su candidate,” she said.
Those who were not included on the list of ward residents had to file a request to the five-member committee overseeing the elections to be added in time for the vote.
U Myint Oo, 65, from 45 ward in Yangon’s North Dagon township, said a Union Solidarity and Development Party member in his award had tried to take the seh eain su administrator position without a vote.
“After we found out about it, we did not accept him [in the vote for the ward administrator]. The ward elections are the foundation of the democratic system, we should all recognise the importance of this process,” U Myint Oo said.
People familiar with the process said that not all wards used the secret ballot to select the seh eain su representatives and ward administrators. In many cases, it depended on the level of interest from residents: while some embraced the chance to select their administrator through a vote, many have shown little interest.
“In Bahan township, many people have been very active to choose quarter officials and this is a positive sign for the development of the democratic process. These low-level elections are the very basis for democracy so I am very glad to see that people are making the effort to vote,” Dr Nyo Nyo Thin said.
“But more time should have been given to collect the updated list of the number of residents in the wards,” she said.
Mizzima editor Ko Myo Thant said many people were still not familiar with the new system of selecting administrators and the elections had not been properly publicised.
“There is also very little time for quarter officials to take the lists of residents. Another thing is people should know what are the rights and responsibilities of the quarter administrator so they can choose the right person,” he said.
“We need to take time to practise this law so that the right people are selected in the future. The main weakness is that because of the short timeframe most people do not understand the new law clearly.”
U Ba Myint, a member of the election organising committee for Mayangone’s No 9 ward, said all administrators had to be chosen by December 25.
“We have to submit the final lists of the quarter administrator to the township office on December 25 and then they will submit them again to the district level. We used the secret voting system in our ward,” he said.
“Here, some USDP and NLD members are in the list but they are not representing their party, just standing as individuals. If they are selected to be the ward administrator they have to quit from their parties for this period, after that they can do as they want.”